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High school basketball: East Hall girls basketball coach Justin Wheeler earns 100th career win in overtime over Cherokee Bluff
East Hall girls basketball coach Justin Wheeler poses with members of his team following his 100th win as the Lady Vikings coach on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019 at East Hall High School. - photo by Nathan Berg

Justin Wheeler’s 100th career win as East Hall’s girls basketball coach was at least as dramatic as any of the 99 to come before it. 

Wheeler’s Lady Vikings led by seven points at home against Cherokee Bluff with under five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, but a quick run from the Lady Bears and a pair of clutch free throws from Madi Phillips tied things up to send the contest into overtime. 

Despite the near collapse, East Hall kept its composure, shutting Cherokee Bluff out completely in the four-minute overtime period to win 55-48 and earn Wheeler his 100th victory early in his seventh season with the school. 

“To get 100 wins in my time here, it means a lot,” he said after the game. “We’ve had some great kids since I’ve been here. The community’s great. They love basketball. It’s a special place to be.”

The Lady Vikings led for much of the game, but could never pull away from a resilient Lady Bears team. East Hall guard Alexis Burce — who paced the team with 16 points to go along with four steals and six assists — scored 10 in the opening frame, putting her team in front before Phillips tied things back up with a layup late in the period. 

The Lady Vikings connected on five 3-pointers in the second quarter, but each time it seemed like they were about to run away with the contest, Cherokee Bluff would score a timely bucket to keep things close. East Hall led by four points at the end of the second and third quarters, and started the fourth with a 7-3 run before the Lady Bears made their move. 

After they cut the deficit to two, Phillips grabbed a steal for Cherokee Bluff late, and was fouled on her fast break attempt. She hit on both shots to tie the game up at the end of regulation. 

But the East Hall defense clamped down completely in the extra period, holding the Lady Bears scoreless while going 5 for 7 from the free throw line to will the team to the win.  

“Credit to our girls for fighting back,” Wheeler said. “We’ve had times in the past where we’d give up a lead going into overtime, and we’d not play well in overtime. But we got our energy back up, went out and executed and won the game.”

Cherokee Bluff's Griffin Neville drives on East Hall's Christian Torres during the game on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019, at East Hall High School. - photo by Nathan Berg

CHEROKEE BLUFF BOYS 83, EAST HALL 44: Griffin Neville score 25, Bosko Norman added 14 — all in the second half — and the Bears jumped all over the host Vikings to go to 2-0 in Region 7-3A play. 

While Norman did much of his damage after halftime, Neville did almost all of his before it. After connecting on a heat check from well beyond the arc late in the opening frame, Neville added a pair of free throws and a layup before the teams headed to the second period. Then, he scored 12 of the team’s 16 points in the second frame, finishing things off with a buzzer-beating 3 that put the Bears on top by 12 going into the break. 

Cherokee Bluff came out of halftime even more inspired. Norman scored six quick points right out of the locker room, and 3-pointers from him, Dre Raven and Cade Simmons helped the Bears to put 29 points on the scoreboard in the third quarter, seemingly every shot attempt falling in their favor. 

The Cherokee Bluff reserves put together a 10-0 run in the middle of the final frame to solidify the dominant victory.

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